Seeing as this is my solo adventure, I thought I’d take a bit of time to think about the other occasion on which I’ve veered away from the world of Keane. It was the time I became Freddie Mercury for a night…and one of my proudest moments. But let’s not dive in at the deep end, let’s go back to the beginning.
Part 1: 1991
I turned twelve in 1991. It was the year that the Cold War officially ended. Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and won the Burmese general election but remained under house arrest. The first website, henceforth the internet, was born. Legislation to end the oppression of apartheid in South Africa was underway, while a new human catastrophe was raging in Yugoslavia. So, as with every year in human history, it was one of mixed blessings.
However, little of that seemed of significance to a naive boy holed up and cosseted in a rural English prep school. For me, life was governed by sport, BMXs, girls and most of all (you’ve guessed it) music. My tastes were an eclectic mix – I had raided my Mum and Dad’s record collection, only to find Abba’s Greatest Hits and endless Schubert piano sonatas. Not to be discouraged, I embarked on trips to the local Friday Ad with whatever pocket money I could beg, borrow and steal to lay my hands on the music I lusted after: Michael Jackson’s Bad, the Top Gun soundtrack, Now 19, The Pet Shop Boys. Even Chesney Hawkes…and yes, like you, I’m wincing at recalling some of those choices.
But an album came out that year that would be the beginning of a love affair that stays with me to this day. Yes yes purists out there, it was a compilation, but oh my goodness, WHAT a compilation! For an excitable kid, the sheer exuberance of Queen was impossible to match. Their Greatest Hits II seemed a bewitching blend of wit, flamboyance, heart and soul.
And then there was Freddie; this moustachioed demigod with the sensibility of a trapeze artist when it came to singing those melodies, leaping from note to note with effortless grace, panache and true spirit. I was in love with this world and the profound beauty held in the sound of its music.
But within weeks of this epiphany, that world came crashing down. Protected from the sleazy stories that had begun to surface in the red tops, I had no idea that Freddie was seriously ill. His premature death came as a bolt from the blue. How could this man who represented the very essence of what it is to be alive be, well, not alive anymore? An innocent little kid, I was being given one of the first of the many cruel lessons that this life of ours dishes out.
To be continued…